Imperialist stock lower than ever
At the time of the start of the Anglo-American imperialist predatory war against Iraq in March 2003, the political and ideological representatives of US and British imperialism arrogantly asserted that, through their ‘humanitarian intervention’, a new Middle East was emerging from the wreckage of the old. By presiding over the transformation of Iraq from the ‘tyranny’ that allegedly was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to US-style ‘democracy’ (at gunpoint by the occupying imperialist soldiery), the US and its junior partner, Britain, believed they would reign supreme in the region and be in a position to dictate terms to all the governments in the area.
As a matter of fact, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as the conduct of these two imperialist powers elsewhere in the region, has had just the opposite effect.
Writing in the Financial Times of 26 October, 2006, Lawrence Freedman correctly sums up the position in which the US finds itself in the following words:
“The US is on the political defensive throughout the Middle East. Iran is standing up to the US in the row over its nuclear programme and, along with Syria, is basking in the reflected glory of what is widely seen in the Middle East to be Hizbollah’s victory in its summer war with Israel. The US, along with Israel, risk being dismissed as a paper tiger, invincible perhaps when allowed to fight a war on its own terms, but unable to cope when facing determined popular resistance.”
Indeed, the Iraqi resistance is demonstrating that imperialist troops are engaged, in the words of Mr Freedman, in a “futile and ultimately unequal struggle” and the Americans find themselves “stranded in a desperate country in a region in which their stock has never been lower”.
Despair and pessimism in the imperialist camp
Despair, despondency and pessimism are considered to be alien to the American spirit. Nevertheless, “a deep bipartisan gloom has descended over the American political class as it contemplates events in the Middle East – and, above all, Iraq” observed Gideon Racckman in the Financial Times of 15 August.
Public support for the war has plummeted. Whereas 72 percent of the Americans supported the war when it started, now just half that number – a mere 36 percent – are still in favour. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of Americans want their government to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
From the top US general in Iraq, through leading military strategists and official analysts to the authoritative New York Times, there is just one message – that the US has all but lost the war. All talk about ‘standing US forces down as the Iraqi forces stand up’ has bitten the dust in the face of fierce Iraqi resistance. The earlier Bush rhetoric about “staying the course” has given way to the modest goal of ‘staying until the job is done’, which is amenable to any interpretation and provides a face-saving device for a humiliating exit from Iraq.
Failure to pacify Baghdad
In an effort to stamp out resistance attacks in the capital, the Americans launched in August Operation Together Forward with 7,000 imperialist soldiers and 20,000 Iraqi puppet forces. This operation has been a total failure, according to Major General William Caldwell, who conducted a review of the situation on the instructions of General George Casey, the commander of US troops in Iraq.
In an uncharacteristically candid and gloomy admission on 19 October, General Caldwell stated that the US efforts at improving security in Baghdad had failed to reduce bloodshed in the increasingly violent Iraqi capital. Referring to the Ramadan offensive by the resistance, he said that the surge in violence was “disheartening”, adding that in Baghdad, “Operation Together Forward … has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence”. Some areas, declared to have been cleared of the resistance, have seen a resurgence of fighting, despite a rise in the level of US forces from 126,000 to 140,000 over the last six months.
General Caldwell had sound reasons for making such a grim and pessimistic assessment of the situation in which the American and other occupation armies find themselves. October was one of the bloodiest (fourth deadliest) months for the imperialist occupation forces. During this month, 108 imperialist soldiers fell to the bullets of the Iraqi resistance. Of these, 103 were US soldiers, the highest number of US casualties since January 2005.
Since the beginning of this war and the end of October 2006, 2,990 imperialist soldiers, of whom 2,813 were Americans, have been killed, and 20,657 have been wounded. In addition, 650 ‘contractors’, ie, mercenaries, have died at the hands of the resistance.
As to losses of military hardware, although the Pentagon has refused to release details, the US Congress has provided an additional $17bn to resupply US forces in Iraq with helicopters, tanks and other equipment lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. A report in the US Army Times revealed that US army combat losses, including 18 Apache, 17 Chinook and 15 Blackhawk helicopters, 160 tanks and 30 Stryker armoured combat vehicles, had a combined value of $219bn.
655,000 Iraqis butchered
As to the Iraqi material and human losses, no details are provided either by the occupation authorities or by their Iraqi puppets. However, it is common knowledge that Iraq has been reduced to a giant demolition site, with its infrastructure in ruins and all essential services in a state of dislocation bordering on complete paralysis.
Regarding loss of Iraqi lives, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, in a study published online on 11 October, says that, as a result of this war, 655,000 “excess deaths” have taken place in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003. This is equivalent to 2.5 percent of the total Iraqi population. Of these, 601,000 died through violence, usually gunfire. This report was the result of a survey carried out by Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, in collaboration with Iraqi doctors from Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.
Resistance grows stronger
Despite the untold material damage and losses of human life of Hitlerian proportions inflicted by the imperialist occupation forces, the Iraqi resistance shows not the slightest sign of weakening. Instead, it is growing in strength and sophistication, forcing US President Bush to admit that the enemy was putting up a “tough fight” and waging a “sophisticated propaganda strategy”. (Financial Times, 23 October 2006)
Further, Bush has gone so far as to make a comparison between Iraq and Vietnam, saying that Thomas Friedman, a New York Timescolumnist, “could be right” in writing that the violent situation in Iraq was the “Jihadist equivalent” of the Tet offensive that served to galvanise American public opposition to that war. (Financial Times, 20 October 2006)
That even such an obtuse skull as that of Bush has begun to get an inkling of the disaster facing the occupation forces in Iraq is testimony to the grim determination and heroism of the Iraqi resistance in its struggle for national liberation. In the face of a brutal army of occupation, equipped with the most advanced weaponry and the best killing machines that modern science and technology can furnish, the Iraqi resistance continues to surprise, torment and overwhelm the occupiers, scoring some spectacular victories against them. Here are just a few examples.
On 10 October, the resistance launched a mortar and rocket attack on Camp Falcon, a US base and site of a major ammunition depot on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. The attack started a fire and, according to the BBC and Al-Jazeera, set off 30-40 explosions, which lit the sky so brightly that some feared a small nuclear weapon had been detonated. There were many US casualties, Pentagon denials to the contrary notwithstanding.
In Ramada and other cities in the centre and west of Iraq, the resistance patrols the streets. Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, is by and large controlled by the resistance, with fierce fighting gong on in Ramadi for the past several weeks. The resistance unleashes 40 rocket and mortar shells on the US and Iraqi puppet army bases in al-Anbar each day.
The resistance has also returned in full force to Fallujah, which was so brutally stormed by US Marines two years ago. According to Sebri Ahmed of the Iraqi puppet police, there are “many more snipers now” in Fallujah and “our men are terrified, and the majority of them have quit after serious threats of getting killed, like our three main leaders”. The three leaders referred to by Ahmed were General Hudairi Abbas, former deputy chief of police in Fallujah, killed two months ago, Colonel Ahmed Diri, killed soon after, and General Shaaban al-Janabi, the police chief of al-Anbar, who was killed outside his house in Fallujah at the end of October. Presently, there are no police patrols on the Fallujah streets, with the policemen staying put inside the main police station.
In Samara, following threats from the resistance that if they did not hand their weapons over within three days they would be killed, hundreds of policemen have turned their weapons in to the resistance and resigned from the police force. As US casualties rise and the resistance grows, Iraqi police units, when ordered to Baghdad from other parts of Iraq, simply refuse and make themselves scarce.
On 20 October, Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi army units stormed and demolished three police stations in a bid to take over the southern provision capital of Amara, thus threatening British plans to hand over control of the area to local security forces. Other Mahdi soldiers patrolled the streets, commandeered police vehicles and set up checkpoints on the outskirts of the town. The situation in Amara arose out of a clash between the radical Sadr forces and the counterrevolutionary Badr brigades controlled by the collaborationist SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq). This dispute presents yet another problem for the occupation authorities in a country in the midst of fierce battles between the Iraqi resistance (Sunni and Shia), on the one hand, and US, British and Iraqi puppet forces on the other hand.
The Amara incident is but just one example clearly illustrating that the inter-Iraqi fighting pits the resistance against the collaborationist elements and has thus nothing to do with civil war on confessional lines, which the occupation forces have been doing their best to ignite but failed thus far in doing so. The truth is that the Iraqi people overwhelmingly want to see the back of the imperialist armies and an end to the occupation.
With the failure of Operation Together Forward, the Americans are planning to build a trench around Baghdad to stop and search all traffic into and out of the capital – forcing all traffic through 28 main roads into Baghdad.
Resistance confidence growing
The US-led occupation forces have their backs to the wall throughout Iraq. Mosul, the second biggest city, is in the grip of severe fighting between the occupiers and the national liberation forces. At the same time, the fighting has spread to the Kurdish region. As a result, with each passing day, the resistance acts with greater confidence and audacity.
This is reflected in the statements of the political leadership of the Iraqi resistance. Robert Dreyfuss, a Washington reporter, recently interviewed Salah Mukhtar, a former Iraqi diplomat, who served at the UN and was Iraqi ambassador to India and Vietnam prior to the invasion. Referring to the strengthened position of the resistance, and the perilous condition of the occupation forces, Mukhtar said:
“The armed resistance has finished all the preparations to control power in Iraq … The resistance is controlling Baghdad now. Yesterday, I spoke to many people, and they said that the attack on the American base [Camp Falcon] was part of a new strategy to inflict heavy casualties on American troops in Iraq.”
In response to a question concerning comparisons between the Ramadan October offensive in Iraq and the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, Mukhtar stated:
“The strategy of the resistance is based on collecting points, as in boxing. You collect points, one by one, to see who is winning. So you exhaust the enemy, by attacking from time to time, until he collapses. The victory of the resistance in Iraq will not be achieved by one battle.
“We expect the first month of next year will be decisive. The Americans are exhausted, and the resistance is preparing simultaneous attacks on American forces everywhere.” (www.robertdreyfuss.com/blog/)
Imperialism and its puppet panic-stricken
Nouri al-Maliki’s puppet government has no more got a handle on the situation in Iraq than did the previous stooge government headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari. In the six months since the departure of the latter, the conditions have become worse for the occupation authorities and their Iraqi puppets alike. This in turn has created and exacerbated tensions between the Republican Party and the Democrats in the US, within the administration itself, and within the Iraqi puppet regime. These tensions have been further intensified following the Congressional election, which turned out to be a referendum on the Iraq war and caused the Republicans the loss of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Neither the Republican administration nor the Democrats have any clear strategy to get out of the mess that US imperialism finds itself in. They are all panic-stricken by the defeat staring them in the face. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, an early, influential and enthusiastic supporter of the war, now says that the US has failed and must consider how best to disengage “with the least damage possible”. Most of even the neo-conservatives, who provided the ideological underpinning for the drive to war in Iraq, now openly accept that the US war against Iraq is heading for a disastrous defeat.
In this chaotic situation, the Bush administration, seized by panic, is scurrying to weigh up all options available to it – from staying the course, through increasing US troop levels in Iraq, reducing their number, withdrawing to safe bases in Kurdistan, partitioning Iraq, to simply cutting and running and a complete withdrawal of the imperialist forces from Iraq.
None of these options is very attractive, for whichever way the Bush administration looks it faces disaster. Meanwhile, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG), set up by Congress and co-headed by the former Secretary of State James Baker, is generally expected to come up with a plan for a “disguised retreat”. (Financial Times, 26 October)
In view of the public opposition to the war, it is highly improbable that the US will increase its forces in Iraq significantly enough to make a difference to its war effort. It is also unlikely that the Bush presidency, so clearly defined by the Iraq war, will opt for a complete withdrawal. Most likely, it will blunder on with the status quo, thus making it possible for Bush to pass on the responsibility for crucial and tough decisions to his successor in the White House.
There is, however, no guarantee that the present bloody status quo can be kept going for another two years. Although the American death toll is Iraq is very much smaller than the 58,000 lives lost in Vietnam, the political fall-out of failure in Iraq could be far higher for US imperialism, and the consequences extremely difficult to contain.
End of US hegemony in sight
Already, thoughtful ideologues of US imperialism have begun clearly to see the end of US domination of the Middle East. Writing in the Financial Times of 17 October, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says that in less than 20 years after the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the American era in the region [the Middle East] has ended” . He lists the reasons for this short-lived domination as being the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the demise of the Middle East peace process, and the failure of traditional (ie, stooge) Arab regimes to counter the appeals of radical Islam – and these appeals, we might add, are merely a call to fight against imperialism and its stooges, albeit shrouded in a religious and medieval language.
In this situation, says Mr Haass, the US will be challenged in the region by other outsiders, including the EU, China and Russia. Even more crucially, he says, there will be challenges from “local states and radical groups”. Iran will, he argues, be “one of the two most powerful states in the region”, and Israel will be the other powerful local state, but one that is “in a weaker position today than it was before this summer’s crisis in Lebanon”. No viable peace process between Israel and the Palestinians is likely “for the foreseeable future” and the US has ” forfeited much of its standing as an honest broker”.
In view of the messy situation facing it, Mr Haass advises US imperialism to “avoid over reliance on military force” and to drop the idea of staging a “preventative strike on Iranian nuclear installations”, for there is no reason to be confident that such a strike would do more good than harm, adding that efforts aimed at the diplomatic isolation of Iran and Syria are not working and should be abandoned.
Savagery and lawlessness
As if the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan were not enough, Anglo-American imperialism has supplemented its predatory war by further acts of savagery and lawlessness.
The torture practiced at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram, “the outsourcing of torture to friendly despots” (Financial Times, 21 October) through kidnapping and ‘rendition’ at a network of secret sites for prisoners denied all legal process, the trampling underfoot of the Geneva Conventions, the complete disregard for the rule of law and its replacement by unadulterated lawlessness, has made US imperialism, and its junior partner, Britain, two of the three most hated countries in the world (Israel being the third) and their leaders, Bush and Blair, the most reviled figures – seen in the same light as the Hitlerites of Nazi Germany.
Blair totally discredited
If Bush is in trouble in the US, so is Tony Blair in Britain. When he gives up his premiership next spring, he will be leaving as a thoroughly discredited person, thanks to his part in the criminal wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thanks to the resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, Blair’s Iraq policy encountered an unprecedented challenge from a most unusual and unexpected quarter. General Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff and Britain’s highest-ranking military officer, placed himself in direct opposition to the government by advocating a policy of quick withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, published on 13 October, Sir Richard stated that the presence of British troops in Iraq was exacerbating the security problem, that the government’s stated mission of turning Iraq into a pro-western democracy was “too ambitious” (of course we know the real motivation behind this criminal imperialist war, but we do not expect Sir Richard to understand this, let alone spell it out), that there was a direct link (something denied by the Blairs and Ken Livingstones of this world) between the Iraq war and ‘Islamist violence’ in Britain, and that the British were not even policing Iraq but merely guarding bases and “venturing out on occasional patrols that offer target practice for passing mujaheddin”
General Dannatt went on to imply that the British military presence in Afghanistan was illegitimate, since British troops had not been invited in but had “kicked the door in”, and were thus resented by the local population. Finally, he warned that the Iraq mission could “break” the British army.
The general’s statements were nothing short of a preventive strike against the British government’s foreign policy, which created a sense of total panic in Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence. Blair, who has vehemently opposed the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq before the Iraqi security forces were fully capable of taking over, and who only two weeks previously had said: “If we retreat now … we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future at the deepest peril”, was obliged, following Sir Richard’s interview, to pretend that he entirely agreed with Sir Richard’s statement as the latter had not called for the ‘immediate’ withdrawal of British troops, only that they should be withdrawn soon.
Incandescent with rage though they were, Tony Blair and his government could take no action against, let alone sack, Sir Richard, for his statements enjoyed the support of 90 percent of the British army and 75 percent of the British population.
It is a sign of the desperation of the Blair government that it has been obliged to send Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Blair’s top foreign policy advisor, to meet the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to discuss ways in which Syria, and perhaps Iran, could help stabilise the situation in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. But, as Lawrence Freedman correctly observed, “neither country … feels any need” to do the US and Britain “any favours at the moment”. (Financial Times, 26 October)
The financial costs of the US war have been huge. The Congressional Research Service in June this year put the cumulative cost to the US taxpayer of the “global war on terrorism” at close to $500bn (£268bn, €395bn), not including additional ‘homeland security’ spending amounting to more than $200bn. (Financial Times, 11 September 2006)
Despite all this massive expenditure and the deployment of nearly 200,000 troops from the US and its satellites, despite Bush’s rhetoric that in dealing with “the murderous ideology” of America’s adversaries “there is only one effective response: we will never back down, we will never give in” and that “we’ll accept nothing less than complete victory”, the truth is that the US-led forces in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, are on a sure path to a crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of the resistance in these two countries.
The defeat of imperialism in these countries is as inevitable as is the victory of the national liberation forces fighting to end imperialist occupation of their respective countries.